A Bright Winter Soup to Make Celery Root Less Scary

December 16, 2015

When I consider what to cook for dinner, I often begin by choosing a single ingredient that either inspires me or intimidates me. And then I cook with the ultimate goal of making that ingredient taste like the best possible version of itself.

Photo by Linda Xiao

Most will agree that celery root is more intimidating than inspiring; with a mess of hairy roots, it looks more like a lumpy softball than a vegetable. I decided to cook with it this past week because it’s abundant and inexpensive right now, but also for a deeper reason: While anyone can serve lobster or filet mignon and have it taste good, successfully turning an ingredient like celery root into something glorious is an exhilarating experience. Seriously.

The first step to cooking an intimidating ingredient is reflection: I try to remember experiences I have had with the ingredient, its tastes and smells. When we let our taste memories influence and inspire us, our food will taste better. I remembered an instance when I felt unsatisfied after eating large, watery pieces of roasted celery root. I recalled a purée that was rich and decadent. These memories pushed me toward a slow cooking process and the consolidation of flavor. I decided to make soup.

Are you a vegetable? Photo by James Ransom

Once you've got the cooking method down, what's the next step for cooking with an unfamiliar, intimidating ingredient? Figure out which flavors will naturally complement the thing that is scaring you; for this, I love to point people toward The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg. But inspiration is all around you: Ask a vendor at your local market; turn to your favorite cookbooks; browse our recipes.

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I cooked the celery root with apple and tarragon because I wanted the soup to taste clean and subtle, but I could have just as easily used louder flavors, like pear and rosemary or bacon and dill.

Next time I might.

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Josh Cohen

Written by: Josh Cohen

Born and raised in Brooklyn, I’m perpetually inspired by the diversity of foods that exist in this city. I love shopping at the farmer’s market, making ingredients taste like the best versions of themselves, and rolling fresh pasta. I learned how to make fresh pasta in Italy, where I spent the first 6 months of my career as a chef. I've been cooking professionally in New York City since 2010.

1 Comment

Claudia K. February 25, 2016
I made this soup this morning...It is possibly the worst soup I have ever made. I followed the directions exactly even weighing the celery root. It is sour, thin and too spicy all at the same time. I then added a little cream...nothing saves this soup.